Of the 100 riders competing at Suzuka this year in the Asia Road Racing Championship, 17 were wildcards, from young Japanese riders looking for international experience to tough veterans of the All Japan series intending to teach the regular stars a lesson or two.
Broc Parkes of Yamaha Racing ASEAN arrived at Suzuka leading the ASB 1000 Championship after retaining his position with second and fourth place finishes at Chang International in Round 3. Behind the Australian, Azlan Shah Kamuruzaman of ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team was heading to Japan on a wave of momentum after his double win at Buriram.
Bryan Staring made his third appearance for Kawasaki Thailand, once again replacing the injured Thitipong Warakorn. Staring had placed seventh in both ASB 1000 races in the previous round.
14-year-old Travis Hall was returning to Suzuka for his second year in the Underbone 150 class, riding a Hi Rev SCK Honda Racing Team machine.
The premier ASB 1000 class was making its first appearance at the legendary Japanese track, having been announced there just one year ago.
The full motorcycle circuit is 5.8 kilometres long, with 18 bends for the riders to manoeuvre. Suzuka has one of the most notable elevation changes in motorsport, with the highest point being at the infamous Spoon Curve, and the lowest 40 metres under it at turn 2, following the 900 metre, downhill straight.
Uneasy weather looked set to play a part over the weekend, with rain forecast for all three days of racing.
Asia Superbike 1000
Broc Parkes’s experience and endurance racing credentials made this the closest thing to a home race for him in the ARRC calendar. With the far less familiar Zuhai, Sepang and Chang International circuits coming up for the last three rounds, Yamaha Racing ASEAN were aiming for nothing less than a double to set up his title run for the second half of the season.
By contrast, ASBK championship leader, Bryan Staring, was making his racing debut at the Suzuka Circuit, and therefore leaning on the advantage of superbike experience he held over most of the field.
Parkes’s main title rival, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, arrived at Suzuka with plenty of track time here too, from both the 8 Hours and holding the Supersport qualifying lap record, which he set in 2018.
Despite forecasts of rain and an overnight typhoon on Thursday, threatening clouds made way for blue skies on Friday, leaving a dry track and a sense of relief with teams and riders.
Honda Asia Dream Racing’s Zaqhwan Zaidi posted a strong 2:09.874 in free practice two to record the fastest time of the day, pipping Apiwath Wongthananon of Yamaha Thailand who stopped the clock at 2:09.893, and Yamaha ASEAN’s Yuki Ito who was less than a tenth further back.
Zaqhwan used track experience and skill to post the fastest time despite a heavy tumble in the third practice session, escaping unscathed. Similarly, Ito also crashed heavily in second practice but without injury.
Championship frontrunner Broc Parkes of Yamaha ASEAN placed fifth with a steady ride, under half-a-second off pacesetter Zaidi. Azlan Shah fared less well, placing seventh with a fastest lap time of 2:10.849, set in the third session of practice.
Kawasaki Thailand stand-in Bryan Staring ultimately finished twelfth, after wrecking his Kawasaki in FP1 and having to sit out FP2. Koji Teramoto of Teramoto@J-Trip was the best of the wildcards, recording the sixth fastest lap of the day in 2:10.84, under a second behind Zaidi.
Suzuka, as ever, had her say in free practice, claiming 28 fallers, the worst of which belonged to Yuki Ito, who broke an ankle and skinned his left little finger. However, Yuki’s well-tested lionhearted nature ruled out any suggestion him going home early. While podiums seemed unlikely, he resolved to ride for as many points as possible.
Despite continuing rain forecasts, qualifying on Saturday also went ahead on a dry track. Zaqhwan continued his imperious run through to securing pole, improving his practice time by a hundredth of a second, relegating Yamaha Thailand teammates Ratthapong Wilairot and Apiwath Wongthananon to second and third.
Broc Parkes grabbed fourth spot, having been unable to better his practice time after losing much of the session due to a nasty crash on the spoon curve. The incident also caused plenty of damage to his Yamaha, placing his spot on the starting grid in jeopardy. His rival Azlan placed fifth, three-hundredths of a second down.
Asia Superbike Race 1
The Suzuka veteran Broc Parkes claimed victory in his first race of the weekend, but he had to dig deep and use every morsel of his track knowledge to earn it following some mechanical issues.
Broc Parkes was quick out the blocks, quickly overtaking Apiwath Wongthananon and Azlan Shah Kamarusaman and slotting in nicely to second place behind poleman Zaqhwan Zaidi. Ratthapong Wilairot fell backwards through the field, uncomfortable on a new Dunlop medium compound rolled out for Suzuka.
As pressure on Parkes mounted on lap three, he seemed to find a false neutral under braking the Spoon corner, causing him to run wide and dropping back behind Apiwat and Azlan. Suzuka debutant Bryan Staring overcame a difficult start to the weekend to carve through to forth in the opening scramble. Staring slipped down into fifth shortly after, succumbing to a determined Broc Parkes.
Zaqhwan also dropped back following a mistake of his own, yielding first place to Azlan and second and third to Apiwat and Parkes respectively. Broc Parkes moved into second as Azlan’s BMW struggled with his soft compound tyre choice, and then into the lead with a blistering drive around the outside onto the start-finish straight.
Meanwhile, there was an ongoing battle behind the top three for fifth place between Kawasaki Thailand’s Bryan Staring and Yuki Ito. After momentarily regaining the lead Azlan was swiftly passed by Broc, who rode two fast laps to create an impregnable three-second lead.
In the meantime, Zaqhwan recovered from his losses to take second place from Azlan, and wrestle Apiwat off the podium. Bryan Staring claimed fifth place from a threatening Yuki Ito, while Ratthapong trailed a further eight seconds back in seventh place in front of the weekend’s best Superbike wildcard, Belgian Bastien Mackels.
Broc further entrenched his lead with this win to 130 points, 17 in front of his nearest rival Azlan, who held on to second place over Zaqhwan.
Asia Superbike Race 2
Despite an eventful afternoon interrupted by torrential rain, wildcard Shinichi Nakatomi of HiTMAN RC-KOUSHIEN Yamaha took a brilliantly judged win on a wet track in the second ASB 1000 race of the weekend.
Sitting on pole position was Zaqhwan Zaidi of Honda Asia Dream Racing, who got off to a solid start, but was soon passed by Yamaha Thailand’s Ratthapong Wilairot, followed by Nakatomi, who astonishingly shot up the standing after starting ninth on the grid.
Championship leader Broc Parkes, and the injured but not broken Yuki Ito followed, while Azlan Shah slipped to eighth despite a fifth place start. Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat who also fell down the places after a weak start.
Ratthapong gripped on to the lead until lap three, when Nakatomi stormed through, spraying water from the damp track as he went. The courageous Yuki Ito claimed second place from Ratthapong, who slipped back to fourth.
At mid-distance Broc Parkes sat in fourth place, with a sizeable gap between himself and Ratthapong in third, but progressively wound him in and claimed the third spot. At the front of the race meanwhile, Nakatomi was fleetingly passed by Ito, before regaining his place and heading away through the spray to victory.
With two laps remaining, Broc began closing in on his teammate, the second placed Ito. On the last lap he got a good drive out of Spoon and carried past Ito.
While remaining close, Ito had to settle for third. Ratthapong ultimately finished fourth, five seconds behind the podium finishers, with a similar gap between himself and the fifth place Zaqhwan Zaidi. Azlan found his way past Apiwat and Victor Racing’s Ahmad Yudhistira to claim sixth.
Apiwat placed eighth, winning a battle for the place with Victor Racing’s Kazuma Tsuda and Chaiwichit Nisakul and Bryan Staring of Kawasaki Thailand.
Broc Parkes had played his home advantage well, gaining 45 points, and extending his points total to 150, 27 clear of his nearest rival, Azlan who came away with 26.
Championship leader Peerapong Boonlert of Yamaha Thailand Racing Team went to Suzuka intending to beat a 14-year ARRC record of seven consecutive wins. Peerapong had exercised complete dominance over the 600 class, having won all six races of the season so far, and holding over double the points of his nearest rival. The Thai is also a two-time winner of the Suzuka 4 Hours Endurance race, further emphasising his advantage.
Despite strong showings in all three practices, Peerapong found himself edged out in Practice 2 by ONEXOX’s Ramdan Rosli, and more astonishingly by wildcard Soichiro Minamimoto of AKENOSPEED-Yamaha in Practice 3. Minamimoto set the fastest time of the day, lapping in 2:14.046 in Practice 3, narrowly overcoming Peerapong’s impressive 2:14.107 in the same session.
Minamimoto’s impressive and consistent showings in all three practice sessions made him look set to be Peerapong’s biggest challenge come Saturday and Sunday’s racing.
Qualifying saw a noticeable improvement in lap times, with the smooth, fast Peerapong leading the way with an impressive 2:13.248, pipping the striving Minamimoto by a tenth of a second. Hong Leon Yamaha Malaysia’s Kasma Daniel took the final front row spot, four tenths of a second down on the Japanese wildcard.
Peerapong’s distant but closest adversary Andi Farid Izdihar of Astra Honda seemed off colour in qualifying, nearly two seconds off the championship leader’s electric pace.
Supersport 600 Race 1
Soichiro Minamimoto of AKENOSPEED Yamaha used his momentum from two fantastic performances in practice and qualifying to carry him to a surprise win in the first Supersport 600 race of the weekend. In doing so, he denied the consistent Peerapong Boonlert of Yamaha Thailand a would-be record-equalling seventh consecutive victory in the Asia Road Racing Championship.
The championship leader Peerapong Boonlert had a fantastic start, asserting his lead over his rivals, and was seemingly on his usual, unstoppable form. The impressive wildcard Soichiro Minamimoto, who had a striking qualifying and practice, suffered from a meager start, whilst Peerapong and Kasma Daniel Kasmayuddin of Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia led the race.
By the mid-point, it was clear that Peerapong was struggling with a handling issue, causing him to struggle to hold his line on Suzuka’s long curves. Second placed Kasma Daniel closed the gap and piled the pressure on Peerapong, and was joined shortly after by Soichiro Minamimoto in a three-way battle for the win.
Kasma soon passed the Yamaha Thailand rider, and was briskly followed by Minamimoto, who took the lead on the penultimate lap. The wildcard quickly created some distance between himself and Kasma, securing an astonishing victory and denying Peerapong’s tilt at history.
Supersport 600 Race 2
Yamaha Thailand’s Minamimolo won the wettest race of the weekend, deploying the best of his measured, stoic style to put the previous day’s troubles behind him. The contest was shortened to five laps following a red flag due to heavy rainfall, followed by a long delay before the restart.
Peerapong led from the restart, but faced plenty of challenges from the chasing pack of Kasma Daniel, Minamimoto, Battle Factory’s Yuto Sano and wildcard Kyusuke Okuda of Team MF & Kawasaki.
Kasma led the group, and lost ground to the leader on lap two as Minamimoto and Okuda contested second place. This allowed Peerapong to increase his lead until Okuda got past Minamimoto, and chased down the leader.
Once Okuda had reached Peerapong, the two were lapping two-seconds faster than the rest of the field. They engaged in a nail-biting ‘cat and mouse’ battle for the front. Peerapong gripped the lead firmly, using his cool head and some clever lines to see off Okuda’s challenge. Peerapong crossed the line a tenth ahead of the wildcard, who finished a comfortable five-seconds clear of third place Minamimoto, who claimed his second podium of the weekend.
Kasma took fourth ahead of Astra Honda’s Andi Farid Izdihar, Yuto Sano, Passawit Thitivararak of AP Honda Thailand, wildcard Hanshin Riding School + Nankai’s Katsuto Sano, Kota Arakawa of Motobum Honda and Musasi Boon Siew Honda’s Helmi Azman, who completed the top ten.
Peerapong further ingrained his lead in the standings, now with 191 points after claiming 41 at Suzuka. He stands 93 points of clear of Kasma in second place, who is 15 points up on Andi Farid.
AP Honda Racing Thailand’s Muklada Sarapuech arrived at Suzuka as the leader of the 250 class marginally ahead of Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Andy Fadly. Both sit on 86 points, but Muklada was on top thanks to two wins to Fadly’s one.
Andy Fadly sat on top of the 250 class combined practice leader board, setting the fastest time in all three practices on Friday, and pressurising current leader Muklada. Fadly set the fastest time of the day in Practice 2, lapping in 2:28.450.
Championship leader Muklada Sarapeuch meanwhile placed fifth on Friday, with a fastest time of 2:29.639 in Practice 2. Her teammate Piyawat Patoomyos closely followed in sixth, lapping in 2:29.686.
Irfan Ardiansyah of the previously supreme Astra Honda team placed an impressive second in combined practice with a time of 2:29.382 in FP2. Teammate Lucky Hedriansya did not get the same good fortune, placing fourteenth.
Honda Racing Vietnam’s Cao Viet Nam suffered a concussion in the second practice session, and therefore did not start Practice 3, ruling him out of the weekend’s action.
The qualifying session for the 250 class brought an epic three-way battle between Andy Fadly, Bike Corner SYS KYT’s Rafid Topan Sucipto and Irfan Ardiansyah for pole position. Irfan held pole for the majority of the session with a time of 2:29.685, prior to Fadly continuing his superb Suzuka form and demoting him to the second spot.
Fadly held pole until the chequered flag, when Topan astoundingly beat his time by three-tenths of a second, securing Pole and the psychological advantage in the knowledge that he had ended Fadly’s perfect run, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
Muklada bagged a place on the end of the second row, qualifying in the sixth fastest time of 2:30.461, placing further pressure on her retention of her narrow championship lead. Teammate Piyawat Patoomyos qualified further down the leader board in twelfth place.
Contender Aiki Iyoshi of KYT Kawasaki had a calamitous qualifying session, leaving him at the back of the starting grid, in thirtieth place.
Despite an incident with BRP Racing’s Kevin Johnson in Practice 3 causing some medical concern, Tatchakorn Buasri of AP Honda lined up on Saturday morning for qualifying, gaining fifteenth spot on the grid.
Asia Production 250 Race 1
Despite carrying a 500rpm ‘equaliser’ cut to his rev limit and his defeat to Rafid Topan Sucipto of Bike Corner in qualifying on Saturday morning, Andy Fadly left his opponents in his wake in Race 1.
Topan started well from pole position, but was passed by Fadly at turn one. Muklada was third, and locked in battle with five Indonesian riders, Irfan Ardiansyah, Awhin Sanjaya and Lucky Hendriansya of Astra Honda, Topan and ONEXOX’s Rey Ratukore, who looked more intimidating each time he braked for the final chicane.
Struggling with handling issues, Muklada was unable to reach the front of the group and secure a podium position. Fadly passed the chequered flag 2.6 seconds ahead of Irfan, who had created enough of a gap to secure second place relatively unchallenged. Ratukore claimed third over Awhin, Muklada and Lucky. Rafid Topan ultimately placed seventh.
This victory secured Andy Fadly the leadership of the 250 class, and presented him a healthy lead over closest rival, Muklada.
Asia Production 250 Race 2
Awhin Sanjaya of Astra Honda stood above the rest in the second race of the day, keeping a calm, cool head to win by a sizeable margin in wet conditions. It was a good day for the Indonesian team, as Irfan Ardiansyah took second place, and another good day for championship leader Andy Fadly of KYT Kawasaki, finishing third and furthering the gap between himself and championship rival AP Honda’s Muklada Sarapuech, who did not finish the race.
Rafid Topan Sucipto converted pole position into an early lead, resisting challenges from Irfan, Muklada and Piyawat Patoomyos of AP Honda, as well as ONEXOX’s Rey Ratukore and Fadly.
Muklada crashed on the second lap when she seemed to grab the front brake too hard and her race was done. This left Fadly with relatively little pressure, just needing to gain a reasonable amount of points to consolidate his lead over Muklada in the standings.
At the halfway point, Ratukore began falling back down the field, while Awhin got past Irfan to gain second place and Fadly got ahead of Piyawat. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Yamaha Thailand rookie, Sawapol Lillabong, made his way up the field and fight for a podium place.
Topan fell out of the lead on the seventh lap, leaving Awhin in the clear, finishing the race four seconds clear of teammate Irfan, who took second from Fadly, Piyawat and Suwapol. Despite a disastrous qualifying session that left him at the bottom of the starting grid, Aiki Iyoshi stormed through to finish in the sixth spot.
Fadly’s first and third place finishes at Suzuka increased his tally to 127 points, 23 clear of Astra Honda’s Aiwin and Irfan. Muklada now finds herself in fourth, 30 points down on Fadly.
Coming in to Suzuka, McKinley Kyle Paz of UMA Racing YAMAHA Philippine Team held a points total of 56 points. His closest rival, Wawan Wello of SND Factory Rapido, is in close pursuit with 51 points.
Peerapong Luiboonpeng of Team One For All led combined practice, clocking 2:36.723, which was the fastest time of the day for the monos. Peerapong led UMA Racing Yamaha’s Haziq Fairues by a convincing nine-tenths of a second. Current leader McKinley Kyle Paz placed fourth in the combined practice, a second down on Peerapong’s leading time.
The usual suspects finished in the top 15, with a notable inclusion of 13-year-old Japanese rider Gun Mie, finishing in twelfth with a time of 2:38.555.
Notable absences from the top 15 included Ahmad Fazli Sham, who won in race 2 at the Chang International in the previous round. He disappointingly finished eighteenth, and missed the cut.
Also missing was Richie Taroreh, who managed an impressive second place finish in race 1 at Buriram, yet placed nineteenth in qualifying after struggling with the complex Suzuka Circuit. Shockingly former two-time underbone champion Gupita Kresna also did not make the cut despite performing well in Suzuka last year with a first and third place finish, and setting the lap record. 15-year-old Travis Hall finished in twenty third, four seconds down on Aziz, after breaking down and parking in the gravel.
The top 15 fought for grid positions in Saturday morning’s Superpole contest. UMA Yamaha Asia rider Akid Aziz posted the fastest time of 2:39.065 following a trailing practice day, just under three tenths of a second in front of practice leader Peerapong. McKinley Kyle Paz placed seventh, increasing the pressure to retain his lead later that afternoon.
13-year-old Gun Mie of HI REV SCK Honda posted the ninth fastest time, nearly three seconds down on the high pace set by Aziz. However, drama was not completely avoided, with ONEXOX TKKR SAG’s Wahyu Ali Trilaksana’s bike experiencing a mechanical error, therefore preventing a lap time from being posted.
Underbone 150 Race 1
SND Factory Racing’s Gupita Kresna made up for a poor qualifying performance, which saw him start from 22nd position on the grid, to take a brilliantly judged win in Underbone 150 race one which saw almost half the riders who started lead the race at some point.
In the morning’s Superpole contest, Akid Aziz, Friday’s fastest qualifier, confirmed his provisional pole position with a near perfect lap of 2’39.065 ahead of Peerapong Luiboonpeng and Wahyu Nugroho. Wahyu Aji Trilaksana broke down on his superpole lap and started 15th. 13 year-old Gun Mie impressed by qualifying ninth.
The first half of the six lap race saw UMA Racing Yamaha’s Akid Aziz contesting the lead with Ahmad Fazli Sham, Wawan Wello, Peerapong Luiboonpeng, Haziq Fairues, McKinley Kyle Paz and Wahyu Aji. With two laps remaining, Gupita completed his charge through the field to lead briefly, before settling into the first four of the leading group.
As the leaders fanned out at the final chicane, Gupita placed himself perfectly to get ahead of team-mate, Wawan and Wahyu Aji to add another win at Suzuka to his resume.
It was an impressive team performance for SND Factory, as Syaruhl Amin finished fourth. Peerapong crossed the line fifth ahead of Fazli Sham and Amirul Ariff Musa. Non finishers included Gun Mie, Kyle Paz and both RCB YY Pang Yamahas of Adib Rosley and Izzat Zaidi.
Wawan Wello’s second place finish won him the championship lead with 71 points, 15 up on former leader McKinley Kyle Paz.
Underbone 150 Race 2
An inspired performance from 13-year-old Aldi Satya Mahendra at a rain-soaked Suzuka saw him become the youngest ever winner of an ARRC race in the championship’s 23-year history.
After the scheduled start was delayed while oil dropped on the track on the sighting lap by Gupita Kresna was cleared up, Aldi made his presence felt from the start, staying within the top half of a group of eight bikes that broke away at the front.
By the end of lap two, it was clear that Aldi and YY Pang’s Adib Rosley were making the best of the conditions, while Akid Aziz and Fazli Sham moved up the order ahead of Team One for All’s Peerapong Luiboonpeng and Affendi Rosley. Meanwhile, half the 30 starters fell by the wayside. Gupita’s mechanical problem at the start prevented him from reaching the start line.
Adib spent most of the race at the front, but Aldi kept the pressure on and moved ahead on the last lap and held his advantage through the final chicane and on to the chequered flag to win by 0.297 from the red Yamaha, with Fazli close behind in third, just beating Akid to the final podium spot. Five seconds back, Affendi was fifth just ahead of Said, while Peerapong, Richie Taroreh, Haziq Fairues and Fitri Ashraff Razali completed the top ten.
Despite being among the non-finishers, SND’s Wawan Wello still leads the standings with 71 points to the 59 held by both McKinley Kyle Paz and Akid Aziz.
Young Travis Hall of HI REV SCK Honda did not finish the race, joining thirteen other casualties, taken by the poor weather conditions.
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